With summer fast approaching and British tourism benefiting from tight budgets and a volatile pound, you'd better move fast if you want to book a holiday cottage at home for the annual break.
A large rental outfit would be an advisable port of call. Although such companies are seeing a surge in interest, they have enough properties on their books to give you the best chance of finding somewhere suitable at short notice.
The subject of this week's review, Carters Cottage, in Dorset, was booked through cottages4you.com, the largest holiday rental company in the country. Though it reports a 44 per cent increase in bookings on last year, it features 10,000 UK properties, which it claims is five times more than its nearest competitor.
Carters Cottage is typical of its offerings. One of three units set around a courtyard at the edge of a farm, it isn't about to win any style awards but it is a recommendable rural retreat for families. Comfortable, spotless and well located, it's a cosy base for enjoying Dorset's beautiful countryside and coastline.
The cottage has four bedrooms and sleeps up to eight. There's one en-suite shower room, a family bathroom, and downstairs toilet. The comfortable lounge is separate from the dining area and the kitchen is complemented by a utility room (with a washing machine). The back garden is a decent size and all yours. Heating costs, bed linen, and towels are covered by the rental fee.
The food and drink
The kitchen is spacious and well equipped, with a dishwasher to take the strain. Essentials such as tea bags and washing-up liquid are provided to smooth your arrival. There's a Morrison's supermarket in nearby Bridport, or stock up at local farm shops. The village pub – the Crown Inn, which dates from the 16th century – serves food. Further afield, enjoy gourmet fare at the Hix Oyster and Fish House (hixoysterandfishhouse.co.uk), overlooking The Cobb in Lyme Regis.
Dorset's Jurassic Coast is a half-hour walk away. Go fossil hunting in Charmouth and Lyme Regis, or get on the Thomas Hardy trail in "Casterbridge", aka Dorchester. Family-friendly attractions include Abbotsbury Swannery, Monkey World near Wool, and Sea Life at Weymouth.
Children welcome – stairgates are fitted and a cot is available. Pets admitted.
Seven nights costs from £959 this summer. Short breaks are available.
Carters Cottage, Puncknowle, Dorset (0845 268 1560; cottages4you.co.uk), property reference DVL.